Gladiolus cunonius is a geophyte with bright red flowers. Its habitat is the sandy soil near the coast between Cape Town and Knysna where it blooms in spring. The flower in picture was found among thriving indigenous plants about ten metres from the sea at Vermont near Hermanus in October 2010.
The plant has a few sword-shaped leaves typical of those belonging to this genus. The long upper tepal is unusual. It has been described as spoon-shaped; it shields the stamens and pistil from damage by the elements. Bean and Johns (2005) show a picture in their book of a sunbird reaching the nectar by inserting its beak under this tepal. Bond and Goldblatt mention an Afrikaans name for the plant: suikerkannetjie (little sugar can); clearly an apt description.